A selection of new and reissued guitar releases, including Album Of The Month
Album of the month ERJA LYYTINEN STOLEN HEARTS Tuohi Records ✪✪✪✪✪
For her 10th studio album the Finnish blues guitarist wanted to “break out of Helsinki and work with an established British producer.” Enter Chris Kimsey of Stones, Frampton and Bad Company fame. Together they’ve created what Erja calls “the best album of my career.” We agree! Packed with guitar from the off, her no-nonsense style is immediately to the fore on the title track opener with its descending neck pickup figure, bridgedriven chords and riff. Great Hendrixy feel here. The Hendrix vibe continues on Rocking Chair with its unusual 7/8 verse, ballsy vocals and distorted slide harmonies. Excellent slide solo too. Space doesn’t allow for full track descriptions but Love Laboratory is crammed with gorgeous, often surprising chords, funky strumming and fantastic vocals. She’s a great player and the collaboration with Kimsey has really paid off; production is huge and musical, tones are fabulous, and almost every track is a stand-out. Fantastic from start to finish.
TIMOTHY B SCHMIT LEAP OF FAITH Man In The Moon ✪✪✪✪ ✪
With the sad demise of his band, the title of ex-Eagles’ bassist Timothy B Schmit’s new album is wryly appropriate (check the lyrics of last track, This Waltz). Recorded with co-producer Hank Linderman it’s a heartfelt collection of songs from Schmit, whose high tenor voice powered, among others, Love Will Keep Us Alive and (the track he inherited from Randy Meisner), Take It To The Limit. From opener My Hat, a laconic number whose tight harmonies are more CS&Y than Eagles, it’s clear that a lot has gone into this collection. All songs are by Schmit, but given his Eagles and Poco background the laid-back country-esque vibe is no surprise. With impeccable vocal harmonies (The Island is Beatles meets Beach Boys), guest spots from pedal steel legend Paul Franklin (Goodbye My Love), and vibraphone master Gary Burton (Slow Down), plus Schmit’s own acoustic sounding very sweet (It’s Alright is just voice and guitar), this is a very pleasing listen indeed.
NICK JOHNSTON REMARKABLY HUMAN Nick Johnston ✪✪✪✪✪
Instrumental albums can fall into the ‘meh’ camp, where the guitar is so distorted and speedy that the quality of the compositions, band interplay and general variety become pedestrian. Not the case with 29-year-old Canadian guitarist Nick Johnston who, while having impressively slippery legato and string skipping chops, has created an epic sounding album. Not only are the compositions melodic and crisply produced (prog, Americana, blues, alt rock, film and fusion influences) but he knows how to get a rich single-coil overdrive tone that exposes every nuance of his articulate musicality. Involving prog rock masters Gavin Harrison (drums), Bryan Beller (bass) and Luke Martin (piano) adds considerable dynamics to tracks like Impossible Things and Poison Touch. If you like mature guitar music (Jeff Beck, Jimmy Herring, Allen Hinds, etc) Nick Johnston comes highly recommended.
QUINN SULLIVAN MIDNIGHT HIGHWAY Provogue ✪✪✪✪ ✪
This prodigiously talented blues guitarist recently featured in Guitarist magazine’s Start Me Up feature. Guitarist was amazed at the maturity, in both playing and attitude, from a young man who hasn’t yet reached his 18th birthday. Having played on stage with Buddy Guy, Derek Trucks and even opened for BB King, Quinn has clearly drawn from his influences and honed his playing to the extent that this, his third album, may just break him as an international blues star. The material varies from downhome blues to a more pop-oriented John Mayer style, but it’s all held together by Quinn’s formidable chops. Check out Midnight Highway, and his outstanding note-for-note tribute to George Harrison (and Eric Clapton) on While My Guitar Gently Weeps; a testament to his dedication and precocious attention to detail. Listen and be amazed! If you’re into Mayer and Bonamassa, you’ll love this!
LITE CUBIC Top Shelf Records ✪✪✪ ✪✪
Lite is a (largely) instrumental four piece that features Nobuyuki Takeda on guitar and Kozo Kusumoto on guitar/synthesiser. This is no rock quartet with never-ending shred solos though; it’s an interlocking band that leans heavily on melodic and rhythmic patterns. Lite will as readily reference minimalistic composers like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, as modern ‘textural’ bands like Animals As Leaders. At times there’s an intriguing mix of naivety (simple phrases, punky strumming, square syncopations, nods toward ’80s pop) and real mastery (the pristine clean guitars are reminiscent of MIDI sequencers or sample and hold synths). The guitar parts are often clever, both in isolation and knitted together with the drums and bass. The most intriguing tracks are the Else with its juddering rhythms; Angled (brings to mind the band Television); the funky D (tight bass and guitar), and Zero with its new-wave groove and unique vocal performance.
MINUS THE BEAR VOIDS Suicide Squeeze ✪✪✪ ✪✪
Despite a 15-year, six album career, Minus The Bear may be a new band in the eyes of some. They’re certainly interesting with influences ranging from NY punk, hip-hop, IDM (Intelligent Dance Music; early ‘90s blend of electronic and breakbeat) and prog. Guitarist Dave Knudson is a considered player, as able with syncopated riffs as two-hand tapping. Opener, Last Kiss features backward delay, chiming chords and stacked overdriven tones. Give & Take has a half-time beat with guitar stabs reminiscent of modern prog pop and an octave effected solo that could have come from Yes’s Trevor Rabin. Invisible is stacked with hold delay guitar strums, driven chord stabs and panned tapped phrases. Silver features syncopated reverb drenched interval riffs and perhaps the album’s most conventional rock solo with unison bends and ‘slid into’ notes. Voids might just be the album that nods to both Animals As Leaders’ effected guitars and the electronic infused pop arrangements of Everything Everything.